The Productivity of Scientific Rhetoric
Emeritus Professor, Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry
(POROI), The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA USA
Department of Communication, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA USA
Poroi 9,1 (April 2013)
1. Rhetoric and Contemporary Studies of Science
The rhetoric of science is so far a small but proud scholarly field that seeks simultaneously to contribute to rhetorical studies and to secure a place for rhetoric in the conversation of–to use a broad and not exclusively owned term–science studies. We want to be mindful of both of those fronts. The approach of rhetorical studies to argumentation, including scientific argumentation, recognizes that, no matter how valid their reasoning or how strong their evidence, speakers must command authority with audiences and that audiences bring a lot of baggage with them to the context-dependent rhetorical situations in which they encounter rhetorical activity. Accordingly, rhetoricians of science take seriously the role of rhetorical choices, including the use of tropes and figures, narrative accounts, genre expectations, and terministic framing to shape conversations about science.
The field owes its gratitude to pioneers such as John Angus Campbell, Lawrence Prelli, Alan Gross, Randy Allen Harris, Jeanne Fahnestock, Carolyn Miller, and others who made this or related points at a time when the reflective study of science was still dominated by history and philosophy of science. Within the narratives of these more prestigious disciplines, the scope of rhetoric was pretty much confined to public communication of scientific results. The epistemic grounds of scientific claims were located elsewhere.
Since then, studies of science have taken so decidedly a discursive and social turn that logical-formalist philosophies and internalist histories of science are no longer taken seriously by nearly anybody (with certain exceptions that both these authors know all too well). This development raises two interlinked questions. One is whether the social-discursive turn in the study of science has taken full advantage of rhetorical theory and criticism in articulating its alternative to philosophy of science. The other is whether we rhetoricians of science have taken full advantage of the opening created by the broader discursive-social turn to articulate, deploy, and advertise our distinctive yet varied approach.
Depew, David J.; and Lyne, John. "The Productivity of Scientific Rhetoric." Poroi 9, Iss. 1 (2013): Article 4.
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